Let ’er rip

Tim Leefeldt

PHOTO courtesy of tim leefeldt

Local architect and events planner Tim Leefeldt has been dealt a lot of downtime lately due to the struggling economy, but it’s unlikely you’ll find him relaxing in the summer sun at Bidwell Park. Rather, he considers the pool at One-Mile an excellent venue to show off his latest invention, the WaterRipper, to potential customers. Leefeldt (pictured with his wife, Darlene) usually draws a sizable crowd of curious onlookers as he sends the toy (a waterproof footbag) skipping across the pool like a flat stone. For those interested in watching the ball in action or even buying one, log onto www.ripperball.com.

What separates the Water Ripper from the pack?

My main competition is called the Waboba Ball. It goes very far, and is very exciting to see, but it’s very difficult for kids to play with. It’s very impressive, but the ball can get out of control very easily and you can involve people in the game who don’t want to play. I bought a Waboba Ball at Bird in Hand and immediately realized that it was inferior in a number of ways. I decided from that moment to develop my water ball and bring it to market as quickly as I could. In nine months I developed it, patented it and presented it to Wham-O.

How does it work?

There’s an exchange between the water in the ball and the water on the surface when it’s skipping. So it displaces water, but it’s also absorbing and changing shape. That makes this ball so friendly, because it’s a little heavier and goes farther, but when it hits your hand it flattens. I’ve seen it hit people at pretty high speeds, and while they might be startled, it doesn’t leave a mark and they’re not hurt. I’ve seen kids who have a hard time with it at first, but then come back two days later and tell me they can skip it across the pool at One-Mile easily.

How did you get the idea?

Ripper ball came about 22 years ago when I discovered that old-style Hacky Sacks would float and skip on the water while I was vacationing in Hawaii. We thought it was really cool, and we would play for hours. I inquired about the possibility of presenting it as a water toy to Wham-O, but a lawyer talked me out of it. Water sports were a long shot back then. Nowadays, there are a number of water toys that are very cool, and the industry has developed significantly.

Do you have any future projects in mind?

I’m looking to develop a water court you can use in your back yard without getting wet. In my mind, it has very broad sports application. Being able to use the ball all year to cross train would be interesting. There are just so many different things that could be done with it.